Nearly six years ago, Paul Pogba’s return to Manchester United was marked with a trendy hashtag on Twitter - #Pogback. The gifted Frenchman, who had left the club after rising through the club’s historic academy setup in 2012 for Juventus, returned for a British record fee of £89 million. Pogba, who had demonstrated his undeniable talent and skill in the youth ranks, established himself as a key performer for Juventus and became one of the best midfielders in Serie A and the world.
The record-breaking transfer back to Manchester United was meant to be the moment that he would establish himself at the Theater of Dreams and replicate the performances he had in Serie A, in the Premier League. Jose Mourinho, who pushed for his signature, implored him “to be at the heart of this club for the next decade and beyond.” Given the turn of events since the #Pogback moment, the question begs, what went wrong, or what happened to Paul Pogba at Manchester United?
The six years that Paul spent at United have been clouded in confusion. It is a signing that did not work out, even though a lot of it is not his fault. The club has constantly changed managers over the nine years since Sir Alex Ferguson retired. The managers hired to take charge have had varying play styles, contributing to the inconsistency in the club. The change in managers and structures has affected many players, not just Paul Pogba, even though he is the greatest example epitomizing such inconsistency.
When he arrived at the club, he found Jose Mourinho and went through Solskjaer and Rangnick on an interim basis, as upon his departure, he left Erik ten Hag. Having four bosses in six years is hardly ideal for any player. It spoke volumes when Pogba admitted to being more willing to play for France than United, especially when there are not many international fixtures yearly. Pogba is indispensable and undroppable when he plays for France, regardless of his club form at United. The sort of faith he has when representing France is what he hardly enjoyed at Old Trafford.
In turn, the belief from the French national team has been rewarded with Pogba playing a starring role in the World Cup triumph, as well as contributions to four major tournaments, which have made him a valuable member of the national team. At Manchester United, the belief has been absent, replaced with frosty relationships with those at the club. At the same time, there seemed to be no definite position for Pogba. At Juventus, he played behind Tevez and Dybala, with Marchisio, Vidal, and Pirlo taking on the duties behind him. At United, he hardly played such a role and was often deployed deep in midfield. He played mostly as a DM, CM, LM, CAM, RM, and against Manchester City in April as a striker.
While his injury issues have not helped, it is a shame that the whole spell had so much potential to blossom into something beautiful but ended up reminiscing a marriage of inconvenience. The relationship between Pogba and United fizzled out to a point where he will hardly be missed. He arrived at United as close to a sure thing as you can get but left with thousands of questions surrounding him.